I am fortunate enough not to raise my hand as having been a victim in the recent #MeToo movement. I am deeply saddened for all those who cannot make the same claims. The movement worked as it made me more aware of the pain and hurt that can be caused by one person’s actions, and it hit home because I have 5-year-old son that I am trying to figure out how to raise in light of this awareness.
I have so many questions. How do I raise my son to respect women, and to love and cherish women’s bodies but only when it’s desired? How do I raise him to be confident without making himself self-conscious about his actions around a woman? How do I raise him to have the integrity to call out other men for wrong doings and disrespectful actions?
Fortunately, I also have two daughters making me very aware of what I do not want to happen to them. Considering my desires for them, it gives me insight into how to parent my son in this regard. In my case, my husband’s respectful treatment of me and other past relationships is a guide to how I want him to treat women.
Our son is particularly affectionate, cuddly and loves hugs much more than both of our daughters. A few months ago, my youngest was yelling at my son because he was trying to hug her. She wanted nothing of it, and she was determined to let the entire house know about it with her whines and screams; she is two. In that moment, I realized it was the possible basis of how to teach him to love and respect the women in his life that he has not yet met.
That day, I explained to my son that hugs, kisses and hand holding are all wonderful things. His hugs, kisses and hand holding make us all very happy, but he must ask before kissing, hugging or holding someone’s hand. It was also explained that it is okay for someone to not want to hug, kiss him or hold his hand, but as his mother, I would soak up all his kisses and hugs.
In addition to teaching him to always be aware of how his physical touch may not always be desired by others, I am hoping to instill in him and my daughters that it is not okay for someone manipulate them into any physical contact that they do not want. If they are to learn that they must respect other’s personal boundaries should it not instill in them that others should respect theirs as well?
Will the one conversation be all he needs? No, we continue to remind him to ask before any physical contact and there will be more appropriate age related lessons to learn as he gets older. Can we always prevent harm? No, but for the future of our sons and daughters, not trying is not an option.
Writer Bio: Summer Bolte
I spend most of my time and days with my three kids, husband and dog. My kids frequently play near me as I garden, cook, DIY and volunteer. My most unusual paying job has to be feeding fruit flies in a research lab, and my most fulfilling job was being an oncology nurse for seven years.